Middle of the day in Holland

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Holland is what they call the ‘donkere dagen voor de kerst’ or the dark days before Christmas. It is the time of year between the middle of November to Christmas and its a general understanding in Dutch. When I tell my English students that we don’t use that saying in English they are surprised. They just think it’s normal to call this time of year the dark days before Christmas. Its the time of year that it will not get light until 8 or 9 a.m. and will be pitch black at 4 p.m.. Notice I did not say ‘the sun rises at 8 or 9…’ because this time of year it will be overcast almost every day. This does not mean it will rain every day. It can be dry for a week or so and still be overcast so you simply don’t see the sun for weeks and sometimes months at a time. This is what is meant by ‘dark days’.

As you can imagine this has its effects on people. The Dutch are like everyone else in that some can get depressed this time of year or just irritable and stand-offish but this darkness has sometimes bigger effects on foreign visitors. My exchange students are from all over Europe and many come here in the summer. Most of them like Amsterdam and enjoy themselves until the ‘dark days’ get here. Some have difficulty sleeping or they sleep too much while others have trouble eating. I have actually had a number of young women students that stopped menstruating during this time. For most, it goes away but some go home early because they simply have to many problems with the dark.

I know there are a lot of people who say they like this kind of sky but I don’t. I think they are all weird, crazy or they are optimists who just keep telling themselves they like it. To me it’s unnatural. Humans need light and sun. Maybe aliens don’t. Maybe it’s just another sign we are truly on Mars. I’m a human and the rest aren’t.

Oh look, the sun. I thought it was the moon until I looked at my watch.